No Sign of Increased Ethnic Discrimination during a Crisis: Evidence from the Covid-19 Pandemic

2023 Socio-Economic Review ·

Auer, Daniel, Didier Ruedin, and Eva Van Belle. 2023. ‘No Sign of Increased Ethnic Discrimination during a Crisis: Evidence from the Covid-19 Pandemic’. Socio-Economic Review. DOI: 10.1093/ser/mwac069

  • Video summary:

Discrimination in the housing market as structural racism

A brief summary of our 2018 study on ethnic discrimination in the Swiss housing market that makes the explicit link to structural racism. Here’s a translation for those who don’t ready German, French, or Italian… (hat tip to machine translations):

A 2018 field experiment in the Swiss housing market shows that people who are racialized because of their Turkish or Kosovo Albanian name are less likely to be invited to viewings.

Shqipe Krasniqi and Daniela Gerber each want to apply for the bright three-bedroom flat in the quiet outer district. The surroundings fit, they like the photos in the advertisement, so they both write to the contact person. There will certainly be other interested parties, so they write a short letter introducing themselves — just as the real estate platform recommends.
Daniela Gerber is invited for a viewing appointment; Shqipe Krasniqi hears nothing more. If it was just this one time, Shqipe Krasniqi probably wouldn’t give it another thought — there were probably too many applications. What Shqipe Krasniqi probably feels we can demonstrate in the social sciences: People who are racialized because of their name are more likely to be eliminated in that first round, without the opportunity to make a good impression in a personal interview.

Using randomly generated, fictitious candidates, we requested an appointment to view a flat over 11,000 times between March and October 2018. We covered the whole of Switzerland, both urban and rural areas. The fictitious candidates had a Swiss name, a Turkish name, a Kosovo-Albanian name, or a name from a neighbouring country (adapted to the language region).

In all of Switzerland, in all regions, we found that people who are racialized because of their Turkish or Albanian name are less likely to be invited to a viewing appointment. We can also show that naturalization does not protect against discrimination: There is no difference in the response rate. Conversely, people whose names indicate a neighbouring country are not treated differently from those with Swiss names. These differences clearly show that it is a matter of racialization and not a rejection of persons without a Swiss passport. The experimental procedure allows us to rule out other reasons.

The experiment also shows well that not all proprietors or agencies have to act on the basis of racial attribution for a structure to emerge. In fact, in most cases, both people are invited: those with the Swiss name and those with the “foreign” name. Nevertheless, on average, there remains a systematic disadvantage for the racialized persons.

A single experiment cannot represent the whole system or figure out which stereotypes or other reasons lead to the decisions. It is possible that these are “gut decisions” that may turn out differently for the same person next time — but we clearly know that on average people with Turkish and Kosovo Albanian names are disadvantaged. Also not covered are the consequences, e.g. that Shqipe Krasniqi will probably have to look for a flat for longer or eventually move to a more expensive flat or to a noisy street and thus face further disadvantages, for example in health or education.

As a first step, it is important to recognize — in politics, among industry representatives, in society — that structural racism occurs in the housing market as in other areas of life. Training can raise awareness, but without a strong legal framework, proprietors have little incentive to change their behaviour in the current market.

Auer, Daniel, Julie Lacroix, Didier Ruedin, and Eva Zschirnt. 2022. “Diskriminierung im Wohnungsmarkt als struktureller Rassismus.” Tangram, 2022. FR, IT

Discrimination driven by variation in social and economic conservatism: evidence from a nationwide field experiment

2022 European Sociological Review ·

Lacroix, Julie, Didier Ruedin, and Eva Zschirnt. 2022. “Discrimination Driven by Variation in Local Conservatism: Evidence from a Nationwide Field Experiment.” European Sociological Review. doi: 10.1093/esr/jcac051.

  • Post-print:

Out now: How one gesture curbed ethnic discrimination

Can a single gesture really reduce ethnic discrimination in the housing market? In very specific situations, it does indeed appear so! In an article out now at the European Journal of Political Research, jointly with Daniel Auer, we combine a natural experiment with a controlled field experiment to show that after the controversial double-headed Eagle gesture by Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, and Stephan Lichtsteiner led to lower levels of discrimination in the Swiss housing market for at least 3 months — that’s when our observations end.

We discuss the enormous attention the gesture got, but also what made the situation so special: a discussion of double loyalties, immigrant integration, etc. in a positive context. While research has focused on the drivers of exclusion and discrimination, here we hope to contribute something that helps us understand how to counter these negative factors.

Auer, Daniel, and Didier Ruedin. 2022. ‘How One Gesture Curbed Ethnic Discrimination’. European Journal of Political Research. DOI: 10.1111/1475-6765.12547

Reminder: CfP: Discrimination and Racism in Cross-National Perspective

The deadline is approaching soon: 27 November, 2020

For a long time, racism has been studied without references to discrimination and was mainly conceived as a specific expression of prejudice. The retreat from blatant form of racism that were not tolerate any more to more subtle and systemic forms of racism has paved the way for studies on ethnic and racial discrimination and inequalities.

Research on discrimination against immigrants and their descendants has grown significantly in the last twenty years, paralleling the settlement of immigrant populations and the coming of age of the second generations. Studies document differential treatment and discrimination in different markets (e.g. labour market, housing) and social spheres regulated by principles of equality (e.g. school, health service, police). Patterns of discrimination are embedded in institutional contexts and a larger societal environment, characterized not only by economic uncertainties and increasing political polarization in public debate around immigrant related issues, but also by increasing diversity and opportunities of contact. Such changes in the context are likely to affect attitudes and ideology diffusion in majority and minority members. However, studies about discrimination frequently do not refer specifically to racism, and the methodological gains in measuring discrimination did not transfer directly to the measurement of racism. How far racism and ethnic and racial discrimination are distinct, and how they relate to each other are key issues we would like to explore in this panel. In addition to these general questions, we are also interested in papers addressing the consequences of the Covid-19 on ethnic and racial inequalities in health would be very welcomed.

The panel will bring together researchers on discrimination, racism, and inequalities, tackling these issues from various disciplines, theoretical backgrounds and methods. We welcome empirical studies of discrimination patterns across a large variety of domains, theoretical perspectives on how the prevalence of ethnic discrimination and racism should be explained and conceptualized, and studies on the consequences of anti-discrimination policies and legislation, including considerations inequalities in health and racial inequalities and how these can be overcome. We also welcome papers which use and discuss theories about cross-country differences, ethnic hierarchies, and evolution over time.

Submit your abstract specifying the research question, data, methods and findings (200 words maximum) no later than 27 November 2020. For further information get in touch with Didier Ruedin ( The notification of acceptance will be made by 30 November 2020.

Organizer: Patrick Simon (INED), Didier Ruedin (University of Neuchâtel)